Tony watched as the ventilator forced another blast of air into Loki's lungs and made his chest rise.
"He's going to wake up, right?" Tony asked, "They said he'd be OK?"
"He lost a lot of blood and his heart stopped three times," Bruce said, "Right now we just have to wait."
"Where is she?"
"I thought she'd be smaller," Tony said as he peered through the glass side of the incubator at the average sized, but vaguely blue, child inside. There were lines and monitors everywhere, and a tube into her lungs to breathe for her.
"Don't let that fool you," Bruce said, "They estimated that she would have been double that size if Loki had been able to carry her to full term."
"I used to hate the color blue till I met Loki," Tony said, putting his hand through the hole in the side of the incubator and gently stroking the dark fuzzy hair on top of her head, "Now I think it's the most beautiful color in the world."
It was three days before Loki started to breathe on his own and was disconnected from the ventilator. On the 4th day he opened his eyes briefly and looked around the room.
"Hey, you're awake," Tony said, smiling, and he took hold of his hand, "How are you feeling?"
Loki didn't respond to the sound of Tonys voice at all, he blinked a few times, and then closed his eyes again. Every day he woke up, each time a little longer, but he never responded to anything.
"You look exhausted," Bruce said to Tony who was on the seventh day of his bedside vigil, "You should get some sleep. I'll stay with him."
"No point. I wouldn't be able to sleep anyway."
Loki mumbled something under his breath, his fingers twitched and his head moved to one side.
Loki opened his eyes, scanned round, and then focused on Tony.
"Hey," Tony said, holding his hand gently, "How are you feeling?"
"Sore," Loki replied, shifting uncomfortably in the bed.
"Here," Tony said pushing a button into Loki's hand, "If you press this you get the good drugs."
Loki pressed the button repeatedly and then laid his head back on the pillow, allowing his eyes to close.
"She's alive, Loki," Tony said, "You both made it."
"That's good," Loki said, sounding almost disinterested.
"Would you like to see her?"
"I'm exhausted," Loki said, keeping his eyes closed, "I wish to sleep."
After 4 days of Loki feigning tiredness every time the baby was mentioned Tony decided he'd had enough and wheeled the incubator into the room.
"Why don't you come and have a look at our daughter?" Tony said.
"I am too tired," Loki said.
"No, you will look at her now," Tony said, getting increasingly pissed off, "She's beautiful."
Loki huffed in irritation, looked at the baby in the incubator at the foot of his bed and said: "She's blue."
"I'd call her more of a delicate shade of lilac," Tony joked, "Are you going to hold her?"
"What is the point of holding her and loving her when she will be taken from me," Loki said, and then he looked away, "I had rather hoped I would not be here to witness him stealing another one of them."
Tony was shocked for a moment by Loki's reply "If I can make you one promise it's this: No one is going to take her from you."
"You should not be so rash as to promise things you cannot deliver," Loki snapped, "If Odin chooses to take her there isn't a thing anyone in all the nine realms could do to prevent him."
"And if that happens we'll all die, but we'll all die together, protecting her."
"You are a naive fool, Stark!" Loki snarled, "Now go away and leave me be."
Tony had left the incubator in Loki's room and given express orders that it should not be removed under any circumstances. Loki made a point of never looking at her, no matter how much everyone fussed or cooed at the small blue child.
At first he wasn't sure what woke him from his fitful sleep, but something in the room made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
"I knew you would come," he said, knowing Odin was there before he had even opened his eyes, "I knew you wouldn't be able to resist."
Loki sat up and watched as Odin strode over to the incubator, peered in at the baby and said: "She is very fine-looking."
"She is blue."
"Blue is a very beautiful colour, Loki," Odin said, looking up at his son, "You should remember that."
"She is awfully small."
"She was born too early. I could not carry her any longer. My mortal body was too weak."
"What name have you chosen for her?"
"I haven't," Loki said, "I saw no point in naming a child I would not be able to keep."
"I have not come to take her away."
"You took the others," Loki said with a sneer, as he climbed out of the bed and stood on shaking legs, "Why should this one be any different?"
"Those children were monsters who would have been the end of us all," Odin said, "This child is not."
"And you can tell that can you? All your big god like powers tell you which one of my children it is alright to condemn?"
"She is an innocent soul, my son," Odin said, finally glancing up from the incubator, "Surely even you can tell that?"
"Of course I can't! You saw to that in the street outside, three months ago," Loki shouted, then he paused, a crease forming between his eyebrows, "Why are you really here?"
"I came to give you a gift."
"That's very nice of you. Apparently they are throwing something called a baby shower next week where it is traditional to give gifts, so you are too early."
"I came to give you back what I took from you."
Loki opened his mouth, disbelieving what he had heard and said: "Why would you do that?"
"I did it for Thor, why would I not do the same for you?" Odin asked.
"That was different. Thor sacrificed his life, he was worthy," Loki replied, nervously knitting his fingers together.
"You were willing to sacrifice your life for that of your child. What could be more worthy than that?"
"What if I do something bad?" Loki asked, suddenly feeling a terrible gnawing anxiety in his stomach, "I have a child now, I can't afford to return to what I once was."
"I think you have changed in ways you don't even realise yet," Odin replied, "But I would ask one thing of you. If I give you your power back will you promise to tell her the truth of her heritage from the start? You will not repeat the wrong that I did to you?"
"I will tell her."
"And you promise you will teach her being Jotun is not something to be ashamed of?" He asked. Loki hesitated and Odin shouted, "Child, if you cannot teach her that, I will take her and hand her to Helblindi, myself."
"I promise!" Loki said, "I promise I will teach her."
"Good," Odin said and laid his hand on Loki's shoulder.
"This isn't going to hurt is it?" He asked, and Odin shook his head.
Loki closed his eyes, feeling a mix of tiredness and abject fear. Gentle warmth spread across his shoulder from Odin's hand, a slight breeze circled around him, making his hair ruffle slightly, and he gasped.
He could feel everything. Everything in the room, from electric drone of the machines to the beating of his daughters heart, he could sense where everyone was in the building, he could hear the sound of the traffic outside and the thrum of eight million human lives out in the city. He could feel their energy intertwining like the roots of a tree. He felt his body start to heal itself, shifting back to his normal form, and the enormous tiredness and lingering pain left him for the first time in three months.
Loki opened his eyes, blinking at the bright colors even though the room was mostly in darkness and looked down at himself. He was surprised to find that instead of bare feet and baggy stripy cotton pyjamas, he was wearing his armor and green cape.
Loki turned and placed his hand through the hole in the side of the incubator, snaking his hand through the tubing and touched his daughter for the very first time. Despite being blue, she was surprisingly warm, and her skin was soft and fuzzy like a peach. He closed his eyes and reached out with his mind, sending tendrils of magic around her. He could feel everything, her curiosity, her energy, and her very spirit reaching out to curl itself into the magic.
"She has a lot of power," Odin said, "She will be a great sorceress one day."
"Yes, she will," Loki replied.
"And she will have a great teacher to guide her," Odin said, "But you still have much to learn. Do not neglect the lessons she can teach you."
Loki opened his eyes, and looked at his daughter. The wires, monitors and the tube that went down into her lungs were gone, and she was a healthy pink colour. He lifted the lid of the incubator and picked her up, cradling her in his arms and then leant forward to plant a kiss on her forehead.
"The father of the child?"
"Stark, he is known as Iron Man here on Midgard." Loki said, turning around to face Odin, "He is very intelligent, more than most mortals, once you get past his sharp tongue and incessant talking."
"It sounds like a good match," Odin said, "Wait… Is he the one who attacked me in the street?"
"Oh…" Loki said, "He didn't really attack you, he was defending us."
"He is an honorable man?"
"I think so."
"Then I will give you my blessing to court him."
"I wouldn't exactly call what we do as courting, it's more s-"
"Loki," Odin said, cutting him off, "Some things are better left unsaid… And undescribed."
"Yes, father," Loki said, a shy smile creeping across his face.
"I must leave now," Odin said, "Will you bring the child to see your mother, when she is stronger?"
"Excellent. Farewell Loki, I wish you both good health." Odin said, and started to walk away.
"Father?" Loki said, and Odin turned, "I know you have given me much, but may I ask for something else?"
"When I return to Asgard with my child, may I use the bifrost. Thor struck a deal with the Jotuns and my child must meet the other part of her… family. I would very much like to take her myself."
"Of course you may, Loki. I would be honoured if you would allow me accompany you on the visit."
"The honour would be ours, thank you. Farewell," Loki said, and Odin turned, walked into the shadows at the corner of the room and was gone.
Loki stood and looked at his child for a moment. She was healthy, she was his and most importantly, she was safe.
"Everything is going to be alright now," he said, smiling at her and she gurgled at him in response.
There was an enormous crash from the next room, the sound of the door being blown off its hinges and medical equipment scattering across the floor. Loki watched as the door to his room flung upon and the Avengers poured into the room, ready for action.
"You may stand down, gentlemen," Loki said, and then nodded to Natasha, "And lady"
"The medical staff reported someone was in your room," Steve said, and then he noticed what Loki was wearing, "Where the hell did you get your armor from?"
Loki smiled gently and said: "Everything is all right."
Tony flipped up his visor and paused to take in the sight before him with his own eyes, unimpeded by filters and displays. Loki no longer looked like a half dead corpse, with pale skin and dark rings under his eyes. Their child was off the ventilator, healthy and gurgling happily. Everything really was going to be fine.
Tony strode across the room and hugged them both.
Tony had seen Loki in his Jotun form before, but he had never seen a full sized Frost Giant and as the group closed in on their position, he was glad he was in his suit to 'combat the cold' and flanked on either side by Thor and Odin.
Loki stood proudly ahead of them, wearing his armor and helmet. He held his child in his arms, swaddled in the soft pelt of a white bear that Thor had given him as a gift.
"Helblindi, Býleistr," Loki said with a nod to the two Jotuns who led the group. They nodded in response, but offered no further welcome.
"This is the child?" Helblindi asked, and Loki nodded, "She is pink?"
"It is merely a simple spell to help her pass unnoticed on Midgard. She will know what she is as soon as she is old enough to understand."
"Tell me," Helblindi said, "What is her name?"
"Her name is Ástrior," Loki said, "It means 'She who is loved by the gods'"
"That is a fine name."
Helblindi leant over, moving the bundle of fur so he could get a better view and Ástrior reached out and curled her tiny fist around the end of the Jotuns giant finger. Her skin grew mottled, swirling with her innate blue colour, spreading over her whole body, and revealing her true heritage.
"She is very beautiful. She will be a worthy princess," Helblindi said, and then glanced in Odins direction and added, "In two realms."
Loki turned to see Odin nod, and then felt Ástrior place her chubby fingers on his hand that was holding the pelt around her. He felt a momentary jolt of panic when he turned back and saw that where she touched him had began to change colour, first grey, then azure blue, and it spread across his whole body until he was in his natural Jotun form.
Ástrior had never seen him like this and he was terrified of what her reaction might be, he thought she would be horrified and start to scream in fear, but instead his daughter looked at him and smiled for the very first time.